EmptyLongacre Theatre, New York
When "Talk Radio" debuted off-Broadway some 20 years ago, it seemed an ideal starring vehicle for its author, Eric Bogosian. The performer, famed for his multicharacter solo pieces, created an indelible character for himself in the form of Barry Champlain, the venom-spewing talk show host presiding over an on-air forum seemingly populated solely by lunatics, eccentrics and hate mongers.
For the current Broadway revival that has been tautly staged by director Robert Falls, Liev Schreiber fills his predecessor's shoes in virtuosic fashion. If the Tony-winning actor doesn't quite possess a voice comparable to Bogosian's (which manages to ooze contempt with every syllable), he conveys in riveting fashion his character's loathing for everyone, including his listeners, colleagues -- and himself.
The play itself, also the inspiration for a fleshed-out 1988 film version directed by Oliver Stone, proves less interesting with successive exposure. Although populated by numerous supporting characters -- including Barry's exasperated station manager (Peter Hermann), his producer and occasional lover (Stephanie March, formerly of "Law & Order: SVU"), his pot-smoking call screener (Michael Laurence) and a particularly drug-addled caller (Sebastian Stan) who drops by the station -- it is largely a one-man show consisting of Barry's often hostile interactions with a variety of usually whacked-out listeners.
These include a desperate pregnant teenager, a disabled veteran, an anti-nuclear activist, a woman who claims to be afraid of her own garbage and a vicious anti-Semitic ranter whose threat of having sent a homemade bomb to the station forms one of the play's more harrowing plot elements.
The play's main if rather contrived plot device has to do with Barry's show -- the appropriate musical theme of which is "Bad to the Bone" -- possibly being picked up for national distribution, with all the marbles riding on his performance this one particular evening.
Even running a compact and intermissionless 100 minutes, the evening ultimately proves overlong and repetitive, though the pungency of Bogosian's dialogue captures, albeit in stylized form, the emotional hysteria of its milieu. Sadly, even 20 years later, the play remains no less relevant.
Presented by Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Jam Theatricals, Francis Finlay, Ronald Frankel, James Fuld Jr., Steve Green, Judith Hansen, Patty Ann Lacerte, James Riley, Mary Lu Roffe/Mort Swinsky, Sheldon Stein, Terri & Timothy Childs/Stylefour Prods. and Irving Welzer/Herb Blodgett
Playwright: Eric Bogosian
Created for the stage by: Eric Bogosian and Tad Savinar
Director: Robert Falls
Set designer: Mark Wendland
Costume designer: Laura Bauer
Lighting designer: Christopher Akerlind
Sound designer: Richard Woodbury
Barry Champlain: Liev Schreiber
Linda MacArthur: Stephanie March
Dan Woodruff: Peter Hermann
Stu Noonan: Michael Laurence
Kent: Sebastian Stan
Rachel/Female Callers: Christine Pedi
Dr. Susan Fleming/Female Callers: Barbara Rosenblat
Sid Greenberg/Male Callers: Adam Sietz
Vince Farber/Male Callers: Marc Thompson
Spike: Kit Williamson
Bernie/Male Callers: Cornell Womack
Jordan Grant/Female Caller: Christy Pusz